Destination Highlights: Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Road into the Crater. Morning fog is likely during June and July.

The Ngorongoro Crater qualifies as one of the best natural areas in Tanzania’s Northern Safari Circuit.  In 1959, more than 8200 km2 were set aside as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area by the government.   A multiple land use area, wildlife, humans and livestock coexist.  The Crater floor lies 610 m below the rim and spans almost 20 km across.  Even with its impressive size, the Crater comprises less than 5% of the Conservation Area.   

Home to the Big 5 (buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion, and leopard), the Crater is a natural amphitheatre for wildlife.  Animal migration doesn’t occur.  A year-round supply of fresh water leaves no reason for wildlife to move from the area.  This phenomenon is in stark contrast to the predictable annual migration in the Serengeti.   

Black rhino on the Crater floor.


Lions are common sites.  The Crater floor provides refuge for approximately 20 lion prides, possibly the highest density in Tanzania.  Black rhino have been introduced to the protected area.  A browsing species by nature, black rhinos make due as grazers here.   Elephant and buffalo can be found on the hillsides as well as the floor, but you’ll need to go the forested areas to find leopards.  If you spend six hours on a game drive (the maximum amount of time allowed each day), you may just have a “Big 5 Day”!     

One of two male lions that visited our picnic site during lunch.


For more photos from a recent Reefs to Rockies scouting trip to the Ngorongoro Crater, go to